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The presidential primary season is officially over. Here’s what the results could mean for November

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The presidential primary calendar has officially come to an end with weekend victories for Democratic President Joe Biden in Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Both Biden and Republican Donald Trump already clinched their party nominations in March, setting up a historic general election rematch between the current and former president.

Many Americans did not want a 2020 rematch, according to public opinion polls, and both Biden and Trump are broadly unpopular. But the two lost just three contests total out of more than a hundred, a reflection of how the Democratic and Republican bases stood by Biden and Trump despite both facing significant political challenges — and in Trump’s case, four criminal indictments, one of which led to felony convictions.

Both Biden and Trump did face protest votes. While those votes did not come close to changing the primary results, they offer insight into the November general election rematch and are already shaping both campaigns’ strategies against each other.

Easy wins for the Democratic incumbent

Biden won the Democratic caucuses in Guam and the Virgin Islands on Saturday. He received 467 out of 469 votes cast in the Virgin Islands caucuses, earning him all seven delegates at stake. Self-help author Marianne Williamson and “Uncommitted” each received one vote, according to local Democratic Party officials.

Earlier in the day, the president also swept all seven delegates available in Guam. Voters there did not cast ballots directly for presidential candidates but instead elected individuals to serve as national convention delegates, all of whom are pledged to support Biden.

The contests marked Biden’s 53rd and 54th wins of the primary campaign. His only defeat came at the hands of relatively unknown candidate Jason Palmer in the American Samoa caucuses, where only 91 total votes were cast.

Biden’s journey to reclaiming the Democratic nomination began in 2022, when he proposed bumping Iowa and New Hampshire from their traditional first-in-the-nation voting slots in favor of South Carolina, which played a pivotal role in reviving his 2020 campaign. The Democratic National Committee adopted the new plan, but New Hampshire balked at the demotion and scheduled its primary for 11 days before South Carolina. Biden then opted to skip New Hampshire’s primary, rather than violate the new party rules that he had championed. Instead, his supporters in the state mounted a successful write-in campaign on his behalf, sparing the incumbent president the possible embarrassment of starting the year with a loss in a contest that he had barred himself from competing in.

After Robert F. Kennedy Jr. abandoned his short-lived Democratic primary campaign in favor of a third-party run in the general election, Biden did not face major primary challenges from Williamson, Palmer, U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips or any of the other handful of Democrats appearing on ballots across the country.

A robust GOP field fails to stop Trump

The Republican presidential primary season concluded on June 4, as the local parties in Guam and the Virgin Islands held their GOP events earlier in the year. Trump prevailed in all but two contests in 2024 – the primaries in Washington, D.C., and Vermont, which both went for former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

Trump began his campaign to return to the White House in mid-November 2022, when many Republicans blamed him for the party’s poor showing in the midterm elections just days before. Since then, Republican voters largely rallied behind the former president following his indictments in four federal and state criminal investigations, with most of his rivals for the presidential nomination reluctant to criticize him for much of the year.

In January, he scored his first big win in the Iowa caucuses, which remained first in the GOP pecking order, followed by another in the New Hampshire primary, where Haley had hoped moderate Republicans and independents would propel her to an upset victory. Trump also scored a symbolic win in a non-binding “beauty contest” primary in Nevada, where he didn’t appear on the ballot, but his supporters backed the “None of these candidates” ballot option over Haley.

Haley was Trump’s last major primary challenger remaining when she suspended her campaign after a disappointing showing on Super Tuesday. Others who ran against Trump included Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and Mike Pence, the former vice president.

The meaning of the protest votes

Biden’s chief rival in the primaries came in the form of organized campaigns in several states to vote for “Uncommitted” to protest his support of Israel in the Israel-Hamas War.

Across 24 states and Washington, D.C., variations of “Uncommitted” received more than 793,000 votes. In terms of raw votes, the campaign reached its high-water mark in Michigan with nearly 102,000 voters choosing that option. The highest share of the vote “Uncommitted” received was in Hawaii with 29%, although that amounted to only 463 votes cast. The campaign persisted through the end of the calendar, with “Uncommitted” receiving between 8% and 10% of the vote in the final four Democratic presidential primaries of the year where it appeared on the ballot.

After becoming the presumptive nominee, Trump faced a seeming protest vote of his own in the form of votes for Haley. In the 21 contests held since Haley withdrew from the race, she still received more than 1.3 million votes. She received more than 20% of the vote as a non-candidate in Maryland and Indiana and more than 15% of the vote in Washington State, Nebraska, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Kansas. In addition, just shy of 49,000 voters in seven states cast their ballots for some form of “Uncommitted.”

One immediate takeaway from these primary protest votes is that both campaigns have now begun efforts to try to woo voters dissatisfied with the other candidate and bring them into the fold. The Trump campaign, for example, has made appeals to Arab Americans in Michigan, while the Biden campaign is launching an effort to reach out to moderate Republicans.

By ROBERT YOON
Associated Press

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